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How FIFA saved Nasser Al-Khelaifi from a corruption trial

The Swiss Federal Prosecutor’s Office had requested that PSG President Nasser Al Khelaifi stand trial before a magistrate’s court for having made a luxury villa in Sardinia available to FIFA’s former right-hand man, Jérôme Valcke.

However, “NAK” will not be tried on charges of corruption because FIFA partially withdrew their legal complaint at the last minute

In a press release, the Swiss public prosecutor’s office (MPC) confirmed the charges against both men: their investigation had established that Nasser Al-Khelaïfi bought at the end of 2013, “for Valcke,” a luxurious villa in Sardinia for €5m, which was immediately made available to the Secretary General of FIFA without him paying rent, at a financial benefit to Valcke of between €900k and €1.8m.

This investigation, launched in 2017 into possible corruption following a complaint filed by FIFA, embarrasses both men. Text messages in the court file, revealed by Mediapart, show that Valcke harassed Al-Khelaïfi to pay the villa’s bills: “The bill has still not been paid. Could you take care of it urgently?”, wrote the FIFA’s number two in January 2014. “Yes boss,” replied Al-Khelaifi. And when NAK was slow to pay, Valcke bullied him on the phone: “I yelled at him, he will pay immediately,” he boasted in other correspondence.

After hearing from the defendants in the case for the final time last December, the Swiss Prosecutors Office informed both men and FIFA of their intention to call for a trial against the pair. It was at this point that a dramatic u-turn took place, as FIFA announced to Swiss prosecutors that it had reached an “amicable agreement” with Al Khelaifi and that they were withdrawing their complaint against him for corruption. As a result, the federal prosecutor’s office was legally obliged to drop the charge. 

Thus, Jérôme Valcke has only been indicted for “aggravated criminal management,” and Al-Khelaïfi for “inciting aggravated criminal mismanagement.” These offences are far less serious than corruption – FIFA have handed them both a nice legal win.

If the Swiss federal court confirms the holding of a trial on the remaining, more minor offences, the hearing will be a farce: the magistrates will have to judge if Nasser Al-Khelaïfi granted an illegal advantage to Jérôme Valcke, but they will not be able to examine why.

This is all the more surprising since FIFA has maintained its complaint in another part of the same legal proceedings concerning the payment of €1.25m by a businessman to Jérôme Valcke, who has therefore still been indicted for corruption on this matter.

When questioned by Mediapart, FIFA and Nasser Al-Khelaïfi’s lawyer declined to comment on the nature of their agreement. The international federation also refused to explain why it withdrew its complaint in the part of the case linked to the villa in Sardinia.

FIFA’s withdrawal of the legal complaint seems to show that the international football federation absolutely wants to prevent justice departments from looking too closely at the suspected corruption linked to Qatar’s win to host the 2022 World Cup.

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